Friday 31 March 2023

ASDA Pick Ups


I went shopping with my girls tonight to ASDA and treated myself to a very nice looking Mechanical Thermometer for £3.50 and a couple of mini garden scoops at £1.25 each for my new potting shed. Yes I'm the last of the big spenders.

I really like the Mechanical Thermometer, it looks good and is a nice size, and easy to read and will not fade like the LCD display ones I have do in direct sunlight. I have planted some seeds by suggesting that another couple of them for my greenhouses might make a nice Fathers Day gift.

Thursday 30 March 2023

Bed 16 & Climbing Greenhouse

The weather looked OK ish for this morning so I visited the allotment on the basis of even if it was an hour and a half I would get stuff done and move forward. Little and often is the mantra. Bed 16 was cleared of its planting membrane and it was cleaned and put by ready for relocating to the Sweetcorn bed for 2023.

Bed 16 after turning the soil with the blue claw in the top photograph. Lots of mares tail roots are in the bed that need to be weeded out at a future visit. 

Beetroots are going into this bed this year, so 105 hole planting membrane required and shallow netting hoops just to keep the wildlife off the bed.

The soil looks good even before the mares tail root extraction has taken place. I
t started to rain a little so I put the tools away ready to exit stage left and then as I was about to leave, the sun came out again and the rain stopped.

I decided that rather than get into weeding bed 16, I would sort out what was in the Greenhouse Frame Box 1.

I bought the two greenhouse frames from B&Q when they were getting rid of all their old stock a few years ago. Sold as seen and no guarantee that it was all there. I think I paid £5 each for them on the basis I could make a fruit cage or something out of them to support netting.

Turns out there there are bracket missing from the first box, so on a future visit I will look to see if the missing parts are in box 2.

The greenhouses aren't 1.8m x 1.8m (6ft x 6ft) they are 2.4m x 1.8m (8ft x 6 ft) and only just fits in the space I left for it. I placed two base frame sections down just to get the feel for how much space they will occupy.

I'm thinking I could just use the metal fencing panels as the walls and not as cladding fixed back to the greenhouse frame.

All the roof members are there, and in fact I have probably got twice as many roof joist when I take them out of Box 2, so I could infill between the joist I have shown above in yellow. 

Me being me I will find a use for the rest of the aluminium members, I do after all need to construct something to keep the squirrels off my sweetcorn.

The idea of this structure is to be able to grow climbing vegetables up the mesh panels and into the roof so that whatever I grow hangs down and I can just enter and harvest what's hanging easily.

Wednesday 29 March 2023

Potting Shed Arrives!


My Forest Garden 2.4m x 1.8m (8ft x 6ft) Potting Shed came today. My four hour delivery slot that I got yesterday in a text message, was narrowed to a two hour delivery slot for today via email and a tracker provided so I could follow progress of my shed as it was on its journey coming to me.

Our allotment is tucked away such that back gardens from domestic housing are around it on 3 sides and a four story block of flats is on the remaining side. Until they put in a drive to our timber gates, you would not have realise they were gates, you would think it's just a timber fence. I did send a "how to find Mill Green Allotment" document that I created that has plans and photos of the entrance to Forest Garden to give to their driver Brad. I was given Brads name in the email sent to me this morning from Forest Garden.

When I arrived at the Allotment I found an empty squad car parked on the drive in front of the allotment entrance and
drop off and pick up area (we are not allowed to call it a car park as other Allotments in the borough would also want one if we did)

So as you can see in the photograph above, even trained observers missed the point that it's actually an access point. I honked my cars horn a few times hoping to draw PC Plods attention that they were blocking the drive.

With the modified four story tower block and the new development on two sides there were loads of empty parking spaces, that PC Plod could have parked his car in. It could be that even they will get a ticket for parking without a residence badge displayed or registered, and they just didn't want the paperwork, or they were just plain stupid!

Despite keep beeping the horn, no bugger comes to see why I was honking. In the end you have to ring the police and ask them to track down the officers on their talking broaches and ask them to come and move it!

After about ten minutes two very young looking coppers came strolling up the road from Mill Green and smiled at me and said " We know we could have parked in one of the parking bays!" I just smiled and nodded as he had admitted his stupidity!

With the panic of the entrance being blocked over I parked my car, opened the inner gate and set about trimming the Hawthorne bush back so if the driver Brad wanted to back down to my plot, he could do so without damage to his lorry.

Wally had just arrived before Brad did in his 3.5 tonne open flatbed that I had requested rather than the 7.5 tonne lorry which about the size of a refuse collection truck.

Brad decided to unload the lorry in the car park as there were three of us and the distance to the plot which thankfully is the first one from the gate on the main path, So we just walked in the shed parts to my plot. The shed comes in easy to handle small sections so getting them around the base I have created was very quick and easy.
Once we had dealt with the shed, Brad asked if I was expecting anything else as he had two more items for me? I informed him that the potting shed comes with two sets of two-tier modular plant staging that can be positioned in a row in front of the window. 

The Potting Shed is a new item that he had not delivered before, and he was not aware that it is included in the purchase price of the shed, but thankfully they were marked up and listed to be dropped off with me.  

The floor comes in two parts and we laid that on the prepared base and it fitted like a glove. We then stacked the walls and windows & two staging's up against the wall and the gables and front windows against the hoops on square foot gardening bed 2.

As advised in the text message yesterday from Forest Garden I put the roofing felt away under cover. I put the polycarbonate windows and the opening windows and their frames in my greenhouse so they would not get damaged or taken/ blown away. I also put the bag of steel plate connections, nuts, bolts and screws and assemble instruction in my shed for safe keeping and to keep them dry.

Later in the day Forest Garden telephoned me to make sure that I had the elements that were not on display in the photograph their driver took, which I thought was a really nice touch, and customer service.

Brad backed out of the drop off and pick up area, and I shut and locked the gates.

Up to now we had been very lucky with the weather as the probability of rain was very high, but it had held off. We stacked all the parts up against the wall. Again advice was given in the text message in the form of a Top Tip:

If the weather is extremely cold or wet, please cover your OSB roof boards and put your felt indoors until you use.

Wally offered to lend me a tarp, so we stacked everything up against the wall and covered it with a tarp, until I can get my son-in-law and daughters down to give me a hand erecting it. Gnome

Gerald the potting shed Gnome is finally happy that the potting shed is now here and so am I. You can't see the smile on his little face in this photo, but it's there

I really can't wait to get the potting shed assembled and get growing in it.

As we finished covering it up, the rain started so we retreated to Wally's shed, I brought some snacks from my shed as it is too small for us both to sit in and Wally made some coffee and we sat and chatted until there was a break in the rain, and we could both get on with some work on our plots.

Tuesday 28 March 2023

High Street Shopping Trip

Monday was exceptional this March for the fact it was dry and sunny. This year March have been very wet and I have not managed to get as much Infrastructure work completed as I would have liked on the allotment.

After my wife Jen passing away late January, I'm slowly getting to terms with the fact that I'm no longer house bound and have to arrange cover in order to venture out on my own or with others. Emma had some leave booked for today and suggested we venture out on a shopping trip in the rain, so we did.

A visit to the local High Street parking at the bottom and working our way up to the top and then returning. Emma had a few shops she wanted to hit, and as for me I wanted to hit the 99p & £1 shops to see what gardening stuff they had and wilko to get some spuds.

So in Poundland I bought the Gooseberry, Blueberry and Black Current plants for the Boundary beds tat you see at the top of this posting. No longer a £1 but £2 each and that still works out cheaper than buying them in from online companies. 

Propagator Covers and 220mm Gravel Trays at a £1 each so I picked up 3 of each as they will be useful either at home or in the new potting shed that is due to come tomorrow.

Nice small Pots and Tray that I will start off the "Forget Me Nots" that were bought to give away at Jens funeral. These will be my first sowing in the potting shed once it it assembled and ready for action.

I bought six blocks of compressed Coco Soil or Coir that was still £1 a block and hydrates up to 10 litres Plus or minus 10% once water is added. Three blocks will stay at home and 3 blocks will be going down to the allotment and I will be buying more of it next time I or my daughters visit a Poundland.

Slug Barrier Tape £1 to go around the legs to the staging that will be in the new potting shed. I also bought some clear silicone for the windows to the new potting shed, and then we made our way up the High Street towards wilko

There were only a few netting bags of
2kg of Wilko Swift First Early spuds. 

There were also only a few 2kg netting bags of Wilco Charlotte - Salad First Early spuds. It appears we made the trip at the right time for me to get my spuds for the year. 

I picked up these flexi pots in wilko they were the last pack on the shelf but I loved the way the base is sprung such that you can ease up the plant and soil when you want to pot them on. Again with the new potting shed coming why not have a few more toys to play with. 

We stopped for lunch and a coffee / hot chocolate at a well known Mc Dive on the way back down the high street. 

Last time I was in one of these it was decorated like a clown and had a kids train in it. I have to say the make over and better seating is a huge improvement. 

I really could not believe how much my local high street has changed, I've been locked away and not visited it for way too long.  

A couple of more visits into shops that Emma wanted to visit then back to the car and our way back home to unload our shopping. 

Monday 27 March 2023

Installing Loft Conversion II

With it being a nice sunny day today I decided that I would load up the car with the now prefabricated loft conversion dormer window and take it to site and to the Plot 1A Greenhouse which meant clearing out all the dross that had been stored in there and having a good tidy up first so that I could remove the automatic opener and opening vent.

This greenhouse has been covered externally because I didn't get around to fitting the netting internally. That's another job that will be done at the end of this growing year when I clean the greenhouse out at the end of the Summer growing season.

It fit into the framing was so nice and snug that I actually used a couple of half paving blocks to weight the dormer down and hold it in place whilst I ran the glue gun down the dormer cheeks to weld it into place on the framework.

Here are the fans working viewed from the outside

Here they are from viewed from the inside

Both the Greenhouses now have their loft conversions fitting.

Dormer window before putting the blue shading debris netting back over the lower panel.

Plot 1A Greenhouse after the clean up, lots of coffee drying on the shelving.

Coffee grounds on the greenhouse racking drying out ready for storage into small containers with lids. Tugs of Starbucks coffee stacked in front if the fertiliser, I'm going to have to find another dry home for the coffee pre drying and storage once the season really gets going.  

Self watering pop bottle propagators ready for action top shelf and third shelf down looking right. Empty tugs and weed / planting membrane on the floor to the right.  

Whilst I was sorting out the greenhouse on plot 1A two foxes decided to chase each other around my Rhubarb and Raspberry beds on Plot 1, until they noticed me watching them and then they scarpered one after the other.

Sunday 26 March 2023

Well that's the Kitchen one done!

80% Chance of rain all day, so no allotment visits for me, but that's not to say I can't do things for the allotment. 

This morning I picked up a set of plastic drawers from a Freecycle post that measure 400mm x400mm x 600mm high that I will build into a potting bench I'm planning to build in the the new potting shed once it arrives and is assembled. 

The potting bench will be built from timber and slats from an old bed that needed to go to the tip, well the bits I could not repurpose did.  

The rest of today will be spent cutting the rest of the roll of 1.22m wide weed membrane into 2.4m lengths as blanks for future planting membrane sheets for my standard 2.4m x 1.2m (8ft x 4ft) beds.

Saturday 25 March 2023

Pebble Pool Plus

Rain this morning so I did more cutting of the 1.22m wide weed membrane to bed lengths of 2.4m from the 50m roll, and then at midday I went to the allotment via the bakers. It was sunny and warm and it was nice to just sit and listen to the bird song, for a while and eat a Cornish pasty. I have a few robins in the nearby trees that were very active and vocal today.

I spent over four hours on the plot installing the pebble pool and cleaning the slate chippings. Once the risk of Frost is over I will install the solar fountain and the pebble pool will provide the birds and the bees with somewhere to come and source water.

The terracotta pot is in the hole just to prevent any wild life and dross from getting into the water chamber below. I watered the pebble pool to see what it will look like once full and the pump keeping the stones wet

My daughter Emma popped in to give me a hand for the last hour and a half of weeding and sorting out the next beds so they are ready for action stations after the last frost.

Friday 24 March 2023

Measuring Out Plots


This morning I met up with Jane from idverde and we measured out plots 11 & 11A because the previous tenant did a land grab taking quite a slice of plot 11, they are now equal in size.

We are still pursuing a solution to the removal of all the debris from plots 11, 11A & 3A by the council and idverde. The council have asked once again for a costing to remove all the debris, despite Adam Brind already previously agreeing the cost of the skips. Now idverde & Veolia need to also price up their element. I'm not holding my breath, but have told Jane I will hold back on taking matters further, for a short while and pointed out the welding oxy acetylene and oxygen cylinders and torch etc again to her.

Plot 9 & 9A which has had eight foot of brambles removed, may or may not still have Japanese Knotweed was also measured and pegged out as two half plots. If when inspected in a few months time there is no further signs of Japanese Knotweed then these plots will get new plot holders from the waiting list which now stands at 40.

Finally some fencing and signs will be forthcoming for plot 9 which should have been in place for all the years this plot has been out of action and undergoing treatment. With the plot belong so overgrown and inaccessible for so long, and the hit and miss treatment over the years, the likelihood of it actually being clear of Japanese Knotweed is very remote.

At least idverde have bitten the bullet and sub contacted the Knotweed treatment out now to a company that knows what they are doing and has the training and resources. I'm assuming that the fencing will not go up until they come to inspect once the growing season is underway.

An invite has been sent to the first person on the waiting list to contact me & come and view Plot 4.

I managed to have a little tidy up on Plot 1 and to sort out the pebble pool and measure for the weed membrane to go under the plastic former. I sowed radishes into the raised planter that is beside the plot 1 greenhouse.

The heavens opened up and I took refuge in the plot 1 greenhouse and was decanting coffee grounds into tins to dry out, until the rain slowed down and I could make a dash for the car. I'm so looking forward to having a 6ft x 8ft potting shed to work in when the weather is not so kind in future.

It's been way to wet cold and windy to cut the weed membrane in the back garden, so tonight I set up the scaffold board in the living room between two fold up tables.

The new 50m roll I bought was supposed to be 1.2m wide but in fact is 1.22m or 4ft. At least now I have finished the 2m wide roll up I only need to cut the roll into 2.4m long sheets to fit the standard beds. I will get 20 sheets out of the roll, tonight I measured and cut 5 and looking at the weather forecast, I may get the other 15 processed on Sunday.

I need some winter blanks and the others once processed will have holes burnt out of them and be turned into planting membrane.

Thursday 23 March 2023

The Wildlife Trusts - Peat Update

Peat bog © Mark Hamblin

UK Government confirms ban on all peat-based gardening products will not be implemented until 2030 

Today 23rd march 2023, Defra (Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs) has confirmed that while some peat-containing products will be banned from shelves in 2027, others will be exempt from a ban until 2030. This means that for some professional growers, peat use will still be permitted for the next 7 years. 


Ailis Watt, peat policy officer atThe Wildlife Trusts says: 


“Today’s announcement is bitterly disappointing. Last year we welcomed the news that the UK Government would ban the sale of bagged peat compost in England by the end of 2024. The Wildlife Trusts hoped that a ban on all peat products would follow shortly after this date.  


“The destruction of irreplaceable peatlands for gardening should have been outlawed long ago. These precious habitats are vital for nature and for our climate because they store vast amounts of carbon and are home to some of the UK’s most special wildlife. We need to see far greater levels of ambition if the UK is to relinquish its status as one of the most nature-depleted countries on Earth or come close to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. Peatlands must be better protected as a matter of urgency.”  


Today’s announcement will allow a large proportion of professional growers to continue to use peat to grow plants and mushrooms. According to data from the Growing Media Monitor, plug plants and mushroom production alone made up 42% of all peat used by professional growers in 2021.  


For decades the UK Government set ineffective voluntary targets to tackle the horticulture industry’s use of peat and its corresponding habitat destruction. The Wildlife Trusts have repeatedly urged the Government to enforce bans for the last 30 years. 


The Wildlife Trusts are calling upon the UK Government to: 

·         Ban the extraction and commercial trade of peat immediately 

·         Ban all horticultural uses of peat as soon as parliamentary timeframes allow, or by 2024 at the latest 

·         Restore all bogs damaged by the removal of peat by 2030 


Ailis Watt continues: 


“The decision to allow the sale of peat-containing products to continue until 2030 does not reflect the value of peatlands - here and abroad - and is at odds with this Government's manifesto commitment to ‘deliver the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on earth’.  


“It contradicts the notion that gardening is an activity which is beneficial to nature and places a burden of responsibility on the consumer to ensure they are not inadvertently buying environmentally destructive peat-based products.” 


The Wildlife Trusts estimate that policy failure to stop peat extraction has caused up to 31 million tonnes of CO2 to be released since 1990. 

Asparagus Bed & Shed/Plot 1 Patio

This morning I got to the allotment early as rain was due between 9 and 10, as it happened there was a little light shower and then the sun came out and I managed about four hours on the plot.

I had started clearing the Asparagus bed on a previous visit when I had some help "Thing" who needed some assistance and I didn't get around to completing the task.

I had cleared quite a lot of the weeds but had not dealt with the long rooted dandelions. I sourced the FISKARS weed puller that Kelly had found me for free on Facebook marketplace and set to work extracting them.

I have to say I love this tool, as long as you get it over the centre of the dandelions it pulls them out so quickly and cleanly. I said to the guy I picked it up from that I was going to use it on the allotment, and he looked bemused, thinking that dandelions are only a problem on lawns and not allotments.

Here is the view after the weeding was complete.

I have a 30 litre sack of Dalefoot's Lakeland Gold which is an ideal spring mulch that encourages worms and enriches the soil. A sack is supposed to cover 1 square meter, however my beds are 2.4m x 1.2m. I'm working on the premise that if used as directed that sack feeds for 2 years.

I'm assuming that applying at around 50% the depth that it should be, that what I've done will feed the Asparagus for 1 year instead of two. I do still have some Equigrow Mulch and will put a layer of that on top at a future visit as well.

Here is the bed after applying the Dalefoot's Lakeland Gold, I did sprinkle a greater depth above where the crowns were laid out and thinner between the two trenches that were dug and along side of the trenches.

With time cracking on and the forecast for rain between 10 and 11 am I covered the bed back up with the debris netting to protect it from the foxes.

I rescued two Raspberry that had escaped from the bed next to the Asparagus bed and had come out with roots so I transplanted it into the Boundary Beds, together with another Raspberry that was growing in the path between the Raspberry beds.

That in turn meant that I had to run wires at the top and at mid height between the scaffold poles in the Boundary beds to support the two transplanted canes.

I stopped for a coffee looked at the weeds and movement that had happened to the patio in front of the plot 1 shed and decided to weed and realign the paving slabs, and infill a gap with a block and a half of concrete block paving.

Patio slabs in front of the Plot 1 shed weeded and realigned. The path to the potting shed needs some weeding and work at a future visit.

Before leaving the plot for the day, I thought I would check out the state of bed 1 and was quite surprised as it had been walked all over by the foxes but they had not dug like mad as I thought they might. They had however dug a hole in one of the Rhubarb beds which I need to fill in on a future visit.